Posted on 01 December 2015 by WNST Audio
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Posted on 29 August 2013 by WNST Staff
NFL HOSTS KICKOFF EVENTS IN BALTIMORE TO CELEBRATE SUPER BOWL CHAMPION RAVENS & RETURN OF FOOTBALL
Events Will Take Place September 3-5
2013 NFL Kickoff will bring music, youth football, and a spirit of community to Baltimore as fans nationwide get Back To Football.
The following are opportunities for fans and media to take part in the Kickoff celebrations throughout Baltimore. Fans and media should visit www.nfl.com/kickoff and follow @NFL345 on Twitter for the most up-to-date Kickoff details.
NFL KICKOFF CONCERT STAGE ARRIVAL
On Monday, September 2 at 6:00 a.m. the NFL Kickoff concert stage will be tugged into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor across from the Maryland Science Center. Media can capture the first shots of the stage that KEITH URBAN will perform on Thursday night as part of the unprecedented celebration for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
B-ROLL OPPORTUNITY: RAVENS LOGOS PAINTED ON YOUTH FIELD
On Monday, September 2 at 12:30 p.m., media can capture the iconic Baltimore Ravens logo being painted on the field that will be home to the NFL PLAY 60 Youth Football Festival at UTZ Field at Patterson Park. Baltimore Ravens Director of Fields and Grounds DON FOLLETT will be on site along with executives from the NFL’s Creative Department.
NFL KICKOFF COMMUNITY LEGACY PROJECT
Former Ravens players JAMAL LEWIS and DUANE STARKS will join volunteers from the NFL, United Way and the National Dairy Council for a community service project at Hilton Elementary (3301 Carlisle Ave.) on Wednesday, September 4 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Baltimore Mayor STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE will take part in the event at 11:30 a.m., followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony. Hilton Elementary was identified by the Ravens and the National Dairy Council for their successful participation in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. Volunteers will transform the outdoor area behind the school adding a greenhouse and garden beds. In addition, a new active play space will be built to inspire creativity, learning and cooperation among students.
The NFL Kickoff Village will be open to fans on Wednesday, September 4 from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Thursday, September 5 from 10:00 a.m. to 8:15 p.m at McKeldin Square and the Harborplace Amphitheater. This fan zone is free and open to the public and brings fans closer to the NFL through sponsors’ activations and dynamic promotions. Sponsors include: Bridgestone, GMC, Pepsi, Snickers and Verizon. NFL Legends will be on hand both days to sign autographs for fans.
For more information including interview opportunities with NFL executives, contact Joanna Hunter (Joanna.firstname.lastname@example.org).
NFL PLAY 60 YOUTH FOOTBALL FESTIVAL
The NFL PLAY 60 Youth Football Festival will take place Wednesday, September 4 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Thursday, September 5 from 9:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Former Ravens players including Hall of Famer ROD WOODSON and JAMAL LEWIS, KYLE RICHARDSON, JAMIE SHARPER, DUANE STARKS and MATT STOVER will team up with more than 850 students from the area to celebrate the start of the NFL season at UTZ Field at Patterson Park (200 S Linwood Ave). Students will learn NFL FLAG drills and Heads Up Football skills from USA Football coaches and participate in activities with players. Children will also learn about hydration, helmet fitting, and concussion awareness. NFL PLAY 60 partners HOPSports, National Dairy Council and Under Armour will be on-site as part of their ongoing commitment to motivate youth and families to be active.
FULL CLINIC SCHEDULE:
Wednesday, September 4
Thursday, April 25
UNDER ARMOUR | GE PRESS CONFERENCE ON HEAD HEALTH CHALLENGE II
The NFL, GE and Under Armour will team up to kick off the second portion of the Head Health Challenge: Innovative Approaches for Identifying and Preventing Brain Injury on Wednesday, September 4 at 3:00 p.m. at Under Armour Global Headquarters (120 Hull Street, Baltimore). The event will include NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL, founder and CEO of Under Armour KEVIN PLANK, and SUE SIEGEL CEO of GE healthyimagination. BOOMER ESIASON will host the event, which also features CAL RIPKEN, JR.(MLB), LAVAR ARRINGTON (NFL) and STEELE STANWICK (Major League Lacrosse), and KELLY O’HARA (National Women’s Soccer League).
NFL BACK TO FOOTBALL RUN & PLAY 60 FUN RUN
The special NFL Back To Football Run and NFL PLAY 60 Fun Run will take place Wednesday evening, Sept. 4 at M&T Bank Stadium. The Run Series invites fans to celebrate the return of football with a 5K starting at 7:00 p.m.; in addition, a half mile Play 60 Fun Run for youth fans begins at 6:00 p.m. (ages 6-12). Fans 5 and under can also participate in a run at 6:20 p.m. on the field. The participants will experience the once in a lifetime chance to finish their race on the field of the very stadium where their Super Bowl champions play. Ravens cheerleaders and mascot Poe will be in attendance, and fans have an opportunity to receive autographs from Ravens alumni and take their photo with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Ravens alumni JAMAL LEWIS and KYLE RICHARDSON will be in attendance to help kick off the run and cheer on the runners.
Fans interested in participating in the run may sign up here: http://nflrunseries.com/
“NFL KICKOFF 2013 PRESENTED BY PEPSI” CONCERT
Grammy Award-winning singer KEITH URBAN will perform live, with activities beginning at 6:00 p.m. (ET) on Thursday, September 5 for “NFL KICKOFF 2013 PRESENTED BY PEPSI,” the NFL’s 11th anniversary Kickoff celebration to kick off the season and celebrate the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. The event is free and open to the public. Urban will perform from a floating stage barge in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor adjacent to the Maryland Science Center. The event will include music, fireworks, a showing of “America’s Game: 2012 Baltimore Ravens,” and a water light show.
To ensure public safety and security, the following items are prohibited: weapons, alcohol, food, beverages, all glass containers, fireworks, all chairs, tents of any kind, barbecue grills of any kind, umbrellas, blankets of any kind, cameras with lens over 12”, obstructive signs and animals other than service animals.
All attendees are subject to search, and prohibited items may not be abandoned at security checkpoints. Please allow adequate time to pass through security checkpoints before activities begin.
Guests can enter the concert site at the Baltimore Visitor Center on Light Street at Conway Street or off of Key Highway between the Science Center and Rash Field. The entrances will open to the public beginning at 6pm on Thursday, September 5.
Guests may view the concert from the general public viewing areas, which are adjacent to the Maryland Science Center and are directly in front of the stage. Access to the general public viewing areas is first come, first served. Guests also may enjoy the concert from West Shore Park and along the Inner Harbor promenade.
Guests planning to attend the event should follow @NFL345 on Twitter for the most up-to-date concert details.
Simulcast coverage of the 60-minute pregame show will air from 7:30 to 8:30 PM ET on NBC and NFL Network. The show leads into the season opener between the Ravens and the Denver Broncos at Sport Authority Field at Mile High (NBC, NBCSports.com, Westwood One Radio Sports, 8:30 PM ET).
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Posted on 08 June 2013 by Luke Jones
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The Super Bowl ring ceremony was quite the extravagant party in Owings Mills that served as a reunion for the 2012 Ravens as well as the final big celebration of the second championship in franchise history.
Yes, Baltimore’s home opener against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 15 will include the unveiling of a second Super Bowl championship banner, but that ceremony will be overshadowed by an actual game and won’t include those who’ve moved on to other organizations but were able to return to the team’s facility to receive their lavish Super Bowl rings.
Media access was limited at Friday night’s event as it was a party for members of the organization, but the Ravens provided an interesting foursome of players to speak to the media minutes after the rings were unveiled.
Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Joe Flacco, and Torrey Smith all stood at different stages of their career as they received their championship rings with the 38-year-old Lewis speaking to reporters first. Having retired after winning his second championship, Lewis spoke as a fatherly figure throughout the postseason and once again expressed his satisfaction over not only having the opportunity to go out on top but to see his teammates experience what it meant to be a champion.
“I always told them I wanted them to really feel what the confetti felt like. Now to be here, to have something that symbolizes it, it’s the ultimate because now it connects us forever,” said Lewis, who also wore his Super Bowl XXXV ring after receiving the Super Bowl XLVII one to wear on his opposite hand. “It took me 12 years to get back and get another ring. I want them to cherish what this moment feels like right now while we’re world champions.”
Flacco, the Super Bowl MVP, responded only how he could with the honest assessment of a gaudy ring that includes white gold and 243 round-cut diamonds. As Lewis pointed out, Flacco won a championship in his fifth season — like the linebacker did with the 2000 Ravens — and the championship surely provided validation in the minds of those who wondered whether he could lead Baltimore to a championship.
The quarterback admitted he probably won’t wear the ring, but it won’t be sitting locked up in his closet either.
“It’s kind of unwearable,” said Flacco, drawing laughter from reporters. “When I see people for the first time, I’m sure they’re going to have some interest in seeing it or at least I’m going to have some interest in showing it off to them. I’m definitely going to bring it a couple of places. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m going to wear it, but it’s pretty special.”
Entering his third season, Smith represented the younger players on the roster fortunate enough not to wait long to taste Super Bowl glory in their NFL careers.
And the former University of Maryland product struggled to keep his eyes off the hardware as he spoke to media.
“I told you all what I was going to be like. I didn’t cry or anything, but I can see how women feel when they get a ring,” said Smith as he laughed. “It has a lot of different meanings. There will never be another season like this. We can win the Super Bowl every year while I’m in the league and there will be nothing like this one.”
The most intriguing of the four to speak was 11th-year linebacker Terrell Suggs, who finally earned the Super Bowl ring he’s dreamed about after starring on the vaunted Baltimore defense for a decade. While Lewis, Flacco, and future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed received most of the attention for different reasons, Suggs won his first championship after the most difficult season of his career in which he recovered from a torn Achilles tendon in late April and then played with a torn biceps for the final two months of the 2012 season.
Always one to provide a colorful quote and having the reputation of being the class clown of the Ravens locker room, Suggs’ sincerity in describing how he felt upon finally seeing his first piece of championship jewelry was the highlight of the brief session.
“To have it so close, it finally hit me what exactly we accomplished together,” said Suggs, who figured out his ring was hidden in front of him when he was discouraged from moving his seat at the beginning of the ceremony. “It didn’t take a year. It took me 11 years to get it. It took coach [John] Harbaugh from when he got here in 2008 — we’ve been chasing this. It finally paid off, all that blood given. There’s not a word that describes what I’m feeling right now and all the emotions.
“The journey was long, but it was worth it. But I will tell you this, I damn sure want to feel like this again.”
Owner Steve Bisciotti took care of former members of the organization by not only awarding Super Bowl rings to David and John Modell, the sons of the late owner Art Modell, but to the five members of the team’s Ring of Honor who played on the Super Bowl XXXV championship team. It appears Bisciotti is setting a precedent by giving rings to Jonathan Ogden, Peter Boulware, Michael McCrary, Matt Stover, and Jamal Lewis, but fellow Ring of Honor member Earnest Byner wasn’t included in that group.
Byner was the only member of the Ring of Honor to have played for the Ravens — the Hall of Fame members of the Baltimore Colts are also honored — who did not receive a ring, so it appears this is a subtle way of ignoring the former Browns, Redskins, and Ravens running back’s inclusion, which was never accepted by fans from the time Byner was inducted in 2001.
He was a favorite of the late Modell, but seeing Byner’s name listed among Ravens greats as well as the Hall of Fame Colts has always looked out of place.
Posted on 23 April 2012 by WNST Audio
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Posted on 17 February 2012 by Luke Jones
As the start of free agency moves closer and teams prepare for April’s draft, the Ravens continue to evaluate their needs in all three phases of the game.
Earlier in the week, I looked at Baltimore’s biggest needs on offense as well as essentials for the defense. In the conclusion of a three-part series, we finally take a long at the often-forgotten but always-important phase of the game: special teams.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron undoubtedly receives the most criticism among the coaches on the Ravens staff, but special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg may deserve the most heat after a disappointing 2011 season. According to footballoutsiders.com, the Ravens’ special teams ranked 30th in the league in a percentage contrived from efficiency in field goals, kickoffs, kickoff returns, punts, and punt returns.
Looking from a more simplistic stance, Rosburg’s units struggled in both kickoff coverage (31st) and punt coverage (24th) and allowed three returns for touchdowns. In the return game, the Ravens ranked ninth in kickoff return average and 19th in punt return average, rarely getting a significant spark from either group as injuries and ineffectiveness forced them to shuffle returners in and out of the lineup.
Kicker Billy Cundiff converted only 75.7 percent of his field goal attempts, ranking 28th in the league. The 2010 Pro Bowl kicker made only one of six attempts from 50 or more yards and was only 11-for-20 away from M&T Bank Stadium — where he was perfect on 17 attempts. And that’s not even taking into account his heartbreaking 32-yard miss in the closing seconds of the AFC championship game that would have sent the Ravens into overtime against New England.
If you’re looking for a bright spot, punter Sam Koch ranked 10th in punt average (46.5 yards) but 19th in net average, which was affected by the Ravens’ suspect coverage.
While it’s difficult to target a laundry list of special teams’ needs from a position-by-position standpoint — the units simply need to improve across the board — but two positions stand out this offseason.
Before you get carried away, this isn’t the pitchfork mentality we’re talking about here. Cundiff isn’t going anywhere for now. However, his disappointing season topped off by the most devastating moment in the 16-year history of the franchise can’t be forgotten as the Ravens assess their special teams.
To their credit, the organization and Cundiff have handled the miss with as much dignity as can be expected, with no one publicly questioning whether the Ravens should have kept veteran Shayne Graham to kick in the postseason. It’s been a credit to coach John Harbaugh and the family atmosphere in the locker room.
But what everyone is thinking privately is a different story. In his defense, Cundiff battled a left calf injury late in the season, but it doesn’t excuse what was a very inconsistent year after signing a five-year contract last January. For a kicker without a proven track record beyond his Pro Bowl season a year ago, Cundiff may have reverted back to the inconsistent performer seen early in his career.
The Ravens need to bring in another kicker to seriously compete against Cundiff during the preseason. The organization will keep Cundiff for now in hopes of avoiding the situation in which they found themselves in 2009 after parting company with Matt Stover. Neither Steve Hauschka nor Graham Gano were fit for the job, forcing the Ravens to scramble during the regular season until they settled on Cundiff.
It needs to be a serious competition, whether the Ravens elect to find a rookie coming out of college such as Randy Bullock of Texas A&M or a veteran on the open market. Graham wasn’t good enough to win the competition against Cundiff two years ago and has struggled with long-distance kicks in recent years, so it makes little sense to bring him back for the competition.
Even if Cundiff performs admirably in the preseason and wins the battle, the Ravens and their fans simply won’t know whether he’s recovered from the disappointment in Foxborough until he finds himself in another late-game situation. It’s difficult to envision the Ravens ever fully trusting Cundiff again, but they’ll at least give him a chance in the preseason before moving on for good.
2. Kickoff-Punt Returner
The Ravens had 10 different players return kickoffs — three of those only returned squibs or pooch kicks — in 2011 and never found stability at the position. Second-year return specialist David Reed was demoted after two fumbles on returns against the Seattle Seahawks and then tore his ACL when he finally earned another opportunity to handle kickoffs.
While Reed will certainly find himself in the mix if he proves healthy in recovering from the knee injury this offseason, the Ravens must look to add an impact returner, preferably someone who can handle both kickoffs and punts to allow Lardarius Webb to focus solely on his duties at cornerback. Field position is critical, and the return units rarely aided the Ravens offense in setting it up on a shorter field.
Of course, the new kickoff rule limited many returners across the league, but the Ravens cannot settle for a returner downing the ball in the end zone constantly as they did down the stretch with reserve safety Tom Zbikowski this past season.
The Ravens could look to the draft for a returner such as Arkansas receiver Joe Adams in the middle rounds, who could add depth in both areas. One name to keep an eye on in the preseason is receiver Phillip Livas, who was signed to the practice squad in the final weeks of the season. Though only 5-foot-8, Livas was a record-setting return man at Louisiana Tech and could be a sleeper to watch in the preseason.
Posted on 18 November 2011 by Luke Jones
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — While the Ravens will be focused on keeping pace in the AFC North when they face the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, they will also recognize one of their greatest contributors as Matt Stover joins a select group at M&T Bank Stadium.
Stover will be inducted into the Ring of Honor during halftime, and the franchise’s all-time leading scorer becomes the fifth former Ravens player — eight Baltimore Colts players and former owner Art Modell are also members — to receive the distinction.
“I can’t say enough about the community of Baltimore and how they embraced the team back in ,” Stover said. “Remember, I was part of that. Just for me to be up there, everybody else is going to be up there with me. It’s not just Matt Stover. I don’t take full credit.”
By the time Stover finished his tenure with the Ravens in 2008, he was the only remaining member of the team who had made the move from Cleveland to Baltimore, earning him a special place in the hearts of fans. After he was unable to come to an agreement with the Ravens for a return in 2009, Stover eventually joined the Indianapolis Colts later that season when their regular kicker Adam Vinatieri went down with an injury.
Despite earning the opportunity to play with Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLIV, Stover met with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to clear the air for any possible misunderstanding that might have lingered about his departure after 13 years in Baltimore. His 207 games as a Raven rank as the second most in team history behind Ray Lewis.
“He kind of understood the situation prior to me even speaking to him, but I just wanted to sit down, man-to-man, because I respect him so much to say, ‘Look, here’s what happened,'” Stover said. “Right after that, he says, ‘You know, Matt, your name is going in that Ring of Honor.’ I went, ‘Wow. Are you kidding me? You want that for me? Unbelievable.'”
When asked about the favorite kick of his career, Stover recalled his game-winning kick against the Tennessee Titans in the 2008 divisional playoffs to send the Ravens to the AFC Championship game in a surprising season. The long-time kicker then mentioned his field goal shortly before halftime of Super Bowl XXXV to give the Ravens a 10-0 lead.
Because of the dominance exhibited by the 2000 defense, Stover’s field goal before intermission proved to be the game-deciding points.
“We get into the locker room at halftime, and the defense says, ‘It’s over. It’s over,'” Stover recalled. “I still get chills up my spine whenever I say that. It’s like, ‘It’s over? We only have 10 points!’ And they said, ‘They’re not scoring twice on us.’ And they didn’t.”
Stover may not have finished his career in Baltimore, but the man who produced 14 career game-winning field goals has no regrets about his time with the Ravens.
“I appreciated the opportunity that I had to play here,” Stover said. “It was a privilege to play. It was never something that I thought I deserved. I think with that mindset, it allowed me to step away from the game and say, ‘Hey, that was fun.'”
Listen to Matt Stover’s Ring of Honor press conference in Owings Mills right here.
Posted on 14 January 2011 by Luke Jones
You have to remember where you’ve been in order to get where you want to go.
In this case, Ravens fans can only hope it’s a trip to the AFC Championship after a win at Heinz Field on Saturday after countless disappointments against their biggest rivals.
Perhaps you’ve clicked this link because you’re a football masochist, secretly preparing yourself for the worst should Baltimore fall short yet again with the stakes as high as they’ve been since the conference championship game two years ago.
A bloodcurdling look back at the low points in the history of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry reminds us that as enjoyable as the highs have been for the Ravens, the lows have been that much more devastating over the 15 years the two teams have battled on the gridiron.
Beating the Steelers on Saturday would immediately become the greatest Baltimore moment in the rivalry’s history while a loss would only mark the latest chapter of bitter disappointment.
With a few honorable mentions to get things started, here are the five lowest Baltimore moments of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry:
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Posted on 22 October 2010 by WNST Interns
Well, its been a very controversial and torn week for Baltimore’s collective football community.
In some very distinct ways, those who discuss, analyze and monitor the Ravens, tend to keep a weekly schedule relatively similar to the team …..
The game occurs on Sunday afternoon. On Monday and Tuesday, we discuss and debate what happened, while also pausing for a collective breath. By Wednesday, we tend to put the game behind us and look toward the next opponent. And, by the time Friday arrives, you’re ready for more football !!!!
The above account is the customary routine for listeners and radio hosts. It’s pretty predictable and many parts of the overall format are planned ahead of time.
However, the last five days have served as one of those unique sets of circumstances. With last Sunday’s frustrating result in New England, anything and everything regarding the “typical process” has been disregarded. Indeed, some situations are hard to stomach …..
On the heels of seeing Todd Heap’s injury, to watching a double-digit 4th quarter lead simply evaporate and become a loss, anyone who pays attention to the Ravens had plenty to say.
That’s the magic of sports talk radio …..
So, as Thursday rolled around, some of us were still playing the BLAME GAME and others were trying to finally put the loss in the rear view mirror, while focusing on this Sunday’s home matchup. He we are in late October, and its just the THIRD home game of the season.
This week’s opponent hasn’t helped the collective crowd in overcoming the hangover, has it? This week’s game is not viewed as one of those contests that can bury the previous loss on the schedule; regardless of whether the Ravens dominate or not.
If the Ravens were playing the Steelers in a couple days, the air and atmosphere would be different. Minds and hearts would’ve been focused on Pittsburgh, by Tuesday.
The same can be said for the upcoming game against New Orleans.
But, not this week.
The Buffalo Bills and their 0-5 record are coming to town …..
I pretty much piled up on the Bills, yesterday. Heck, I bullied them. After all, that’s what we expect when a winless and nearly powerless team comes crawling into Baltimore.
That said, this week’s opponent is from Buffalo and that’s where we’ll direct our attention today. As an added bonus, Sunday’s game will also feature a ceremony recognizing the 2000 Super Bowl Champions. It’s hard to believe a DECADE has passed since that team shared a locker room.
Over the past few days, WNST has devoted a significant amount of time to catching up with former players and reliving some of the most meaningful times in Baltmore’s football history.
We’ve chatted with Hall of Famers, All Pros and contributing members to that very special season.
Today, we’ll continue the conversations with some of this town’s most adored Ravens. This afternoon’s list of guests includes …..
In addition to chatting with these former players and reminiscing about our collective memories, we will take a hard look at the Buffalo Bills and the tough season they’ve endured. We’ll also chat with our good friend – the “unsung hero” of WNST, Chris Pika, for a look around the NFL.
Yes, I will also hit Nestor with some questions about the American League Championship Series. He hates the Yankees. I hate the Yankees. You hate the Yankees. And, they’re on the brink of heading home for the winter.
Join us this afternoon, at 2pm. It’s four solid hours of football (and a little bit of baseball) talk. It’s the prime way to kick off an awesome weekend.
It’s the FRIDAY FOOTBALL FRENZY …..
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Posted on 12 October 2010 by Luke Jones
Even with the daunting task of traveling to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots this Sunday, you have to feel good about the Ravens’ 4-1 start and the early lead atop the AFC North with the first month of the season already in the books.
With three of the first four on the road (two of them division games), you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thought the Ravens would fare better than they have after road victories against the Jets and Steelers. And when you take a look around the rest of the league, the Ravens’ accomplishments look even more impressive.
Parity is a word all-too-familiar to NFL fans, but the notion seemed to be waning over the last few seasons with the regular-season success of the 2007 Patriots and extended runs at perfection by the Colts and Saints last year. However, with the 1972 Dolphins uncorking the champagne before Columbus Day — with no 4-0 teams in the NFL since 1970 — and only eight teams sporting one loss through the first five weeks of the season, 2010 appears up for grabs in mid-October.
Are the Ravens the best team in the NFL?
Being this early, who cares? But it’s difficult to argue any team has looked better than Baltimore.
If the Ravens can beat New England (3-1), it will mark just the second 5-1 start in franchise history, the other coming in the 2000 season.
However, for some perspective, at the time of the 5-1 start, Tony Banks was the starting quarterback and the Ravens had just won their second straight game without scoring a touchdown.
Things changed very quickly — in a bad way — before a historic run began and Trent Dilfer and the Ravens found themselves holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end of January.
1. Since taking over as head coach in 2008, John Harbaugh has shown the uncanny ability to take care of business against inferior teams, home or away.
In 37 regular season games under Harbaugh, the Ravens have never lost to a team that finished the season with a losing record. As unimpressive as that might sound to the casual observer, you’ll find a “bad” loss by a playoff-caliber team nearly every week in the NFL.
Of course, the opposite argument can be made that the Ravens have fallen short too many times against quality opponents — especially last season when they struggled to get to the playoffs at 9-7 — but winning the games you’re supposed to win and holding your own against winning teams will put you in an enviable position.
Time will determine whether their Week 2 loss in Cincinnati breaks the string, but the Harbaugh-led Ravens have managed to avoid the unwarranted defeats the team suffered in previous seasons.
2. All eyes will be on Bill Belichick and the Patriots in their first game since trading disgruntled receiver Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings and re-acquiring former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. The removal of Moss will undoubtedly impact the New England offense, but how much?
Expect a little gadgetry on Sunday as Tom Brady deciphers where everyone fits in the post-Moss era.
Of course, Belichick had an extra week to figure it out with the Patriots’ Week 5 bye, and his record in New England coming off the bye week is an impressive 8-2, including seven straight wins. But before we write off the Ravens at Gillette Stadium and bow to the genius of Belichick, we should remember that four of the last six have come against the Buffalo Bills.
Not to belittle an impressive feat, but game-planning against a team led in recent years by the likes of Dick Jauron and Mike Mularkey is a bit easier than facing the team that blasted you in the playoffs just nine months ago.
In the Harbaugh era, the Ravens are 2-1 when playing teams coming off their bye week. All three games were last season, which included wins against Cleveland and Denver as well as a road loss to Cincinnati.
3. Putting aside the obvious threat of Brady to Wes Welker, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s biggest concern might be a pair of rookie tight ends.
Through the Patriots’ first four games, Welker leads the team in receptions (26), but not receiving yards. That distinction belongs to Aaron Hernandez (18 catches for 240 yards) despite being the second tight end drafted (fourth round) by New England in April. Rob Gronkowski, a second-round selection, has posted modest numbers (six catches for 62 yards) but was an impressive talent eyed by the Ravens leading up to the draft.
The Ravens have struggled covering the intermediate middle of the field in recent years, so the inside linebacker corps of Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain, and Dannell Ellerbe will need to keep a close eye on these rookie targets.
4. As much as we lamented the absence of Matt Stover a season ago, let’s tip our caps to Billy Cundiff. His ability to boot the football deep into the end zone on kickoffs is an underappreciated factor in the Ravens being 4-1.
His four touchbacks against the Broncos on Sunday matched the total number by Baltimore kickers all of last year.
Whispers of Stover will not dissipate — if they ever do — until we see Cundiff make a 47-yarder to win a late-season game, but the distinct upgrade on kickoffs cannot be overlooked.
As great as Stover was with the game on the line, fans easily forget his kickoffs barely traveling inside the 10-yard line, often setting up the opponent with good field position.
5. Plenty has been said about Cam Cameron’s choice to use Haloti Ngata at tight end on Sunday’s opening drive and the near-disaster that followed with the defensive tackle down on the field.
I offer you three names: James Jones (1996), Herman Arvie (1996), and Jonathan Ogden (1996 and 2003), three linemen who all registered touchdown catches with the Ravens.
The difference in this case? Cameron and Harbaugh have too many offensive weapons at their disposal to risk losing one of the greatest defensive players in the game today. Why spend draft picks on two tight ends to complement Todd Heap and then risk your best defensive player trying to be too cute?
Ngata playing offense was a fun spectacle until we saw what nearly happened with the Ravens’ season flashing before the eyes of 71,000 people at M&T Bank Stadium.
Lesson learned — hopefully.
6. It was natural for questions to arise whether the Ravens had any interest in bringing back Antwan Barnes after he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles last week, but Harbaugh promptly shot down the idea on Monday. (Update: Barnes signed a contract with the San Diego Chargers on Wednesday afternoon)
In three years with the Ravens, the linebacker-defensive end managed only five sacks and sealed his fate last October when he whiffed on a tackle of Cedric Benson that led to a 28-yard touchdown run and an eventual loss to the Bengals.
Barnes is too small to provide help at defensive end, where the Ravens need a consistent pass-rush threat, and not athletic enough to play linebacker on every down. If they didn’t want him before the season, what would have changed a month later?
“I haven’t had a conversation with him,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “We don’t really have a roster opportunity right now for that. We wouldn’t be opposed to it. Antwan’s a good person, a good player. Obviously, he’s done some good things here. But, right now, there’s no way roster-wise we could pull that off.”
In other words, “Thanks, but no thanks — we’ve moved on.”
7. If all goes to plan and you believe the recent comments made by Harbaugh, Sunday will mark the final game before All-Pro safety Ed Reed returns to the 53-man roster after beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list.
During training camp, I said Tom Zbikowski would do an adequate job at free safety in Reed’s absence, and the third-year safety has done just that. So with the Ravens currently having the second-best pass defense in the NFL (behind only the New York Giants), the question must be asked:
How well will Reed fit into the secondary when he returns to the starting lineup?
The Baltimore defense no longer plays the exotic, aggressive schemes of Rex Ryan, but employs a conservative, “bend, but don’t break” style under Mattison. Reed has always gambled in the defensive backfield, at times leaving teammates out to dry in coverage while also making some of the greatest plays in NFL history.
With the 32-year-old returning from hip surgery, it will be interesting to see whether Reed takes a more conservative approach in coverage or returns with a bigger chip on his shoulder to prove he’s still one of the best defensive players in the league and deserving of the new contract he so desperately wants. If Reed proves to be a lesser player than he was prior to the hip procedure but plays with the same aggressive style, the secondary could be more vulnerable to the big play.
That said, it is hard to doubt a player who will one day be enshrined in Canton.
8. Speaking of injured players, you have to wonder how long the Ravens will continue to wait for Jared Gaither to return. Other than being a limited participant in one practice a couple weeks ago, the offensive tackle has been out with a thoracic disc injury since training camp.
With roster decisions looming with Reed and fellow PUP list members Brendon Ayanbadejo and Matt Lawrence, Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh may need to pull the plug on the projected starter at right tackle.
The improved play of Marshal Yanda at right tackle and Chris Chester at right guard has eased concerns on the right side of the line. Cohesion upfront is difficult to develop, so Gaither’s potential return would require another period of adjustment, something the coaching staff might be uncomfortable with later in the season.
Keep in mind, Gaither has not played right tackle regularly since the early part of his collegiate career at Maryland, so this isn’t a savvy veteran who can step right in to his regular position when healthy.
If Gaither does not make significant progress by the bye week, his season will likely come to a disappointing end.
9. Much has been said about the return of the three-headed running attack and the 2008-like feel to Sunday’s win over the Broncos, but don’t expect it to last.
Like it or not, the Ravens’ current profile is a pass-first team that runs the ball efficiently. The dominating 233-yard rushing performance against Denver was more the effect of a comfortable lead than some epiphany for Cameron.
Of Joe Flacco’s 97 completions through five games, 50 have been for under 10 yards, looking a little like the “running” game of the Patriots with Brady under helm. However, his 6.6 yards per attempt (the lowest of his career) needs to increase for the offense to continue growing.
Despite the profile change — which really began last season — the ability to pound the football looms large when the elements grow harsh, and the Ravens will use it when appropriate.
10. Ranking 19th in the league in total offense (328.2 yards per game) and tied for 17th in points scored (18.4 per game), the Baltimore offense has room for improvement with Cameron and Flacco trying to distribute the ball to keep a plethora of talented players — and egos — happy.
As well as the defense has played, it hasn’t done its counterpart any favors in the turnover department with only three takeaways and a -6 turnover differential, both last in the AFC.
Nothing gives an offense more confidence than starting drives on a short field, and a few more turnovers might be the serum the offense needs to excel. Fortunately, the defense and kick coverage has played well enough to win the field-position battle in most instances, but the turnover differential must improve if the Ravens are to take a step toward elitism, offensively and as a team.
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Posted on 26 August 2010 by Luke Jones
With Sports Illustrated releasing its list of all-time best NFL players by jersey number this week, I decided to look back at the 15-year history of the Baltimore Ravens to construct a list of the greatest players for Nos. 1-99.
Numbers 1 through 20 included greats such as Matt Stover and Ed Reed as well as lackluster selections such as David Tyree and Wally Richardson.
Part two (21-40) provides a few interesting debates with a few more selections of attrition.
21 Chris McAlister (1999-2008)
The paradoxical cornerback’s exit under the new regime of John Harbaugh was unfortunate, but there was no questioning McAlister’s talent when his mind was focused on football. The three-time Pro Bowl selection (2003-04, 2006) is the best cornerback in franchise history.
McAlister will eventually be a part of the Ring of Honor, where he will become the second honoree to wear No. 21, but the only deserving one. Earnest Byner had a good NFL career in Cleveland (with the exception of “The Fumble”) and Washington, but he being the first member of the Ravens Ring of Honor is solely a product of Art Modell’s affection for the running back.
22 Duane Starks (1998-2001)
McAlister’s counterpart receives the nod in a close race with cornerback Samari Rolle. Starks lacked consistency in his four-year career with the Ravens, but his play reached new heights during the team’s postseason run that ended with the Lombardi Trophy in Tampa. Starks intercepted two passes in the AFC Championship and returned a Kerry Collins attempt the other way 49 yards for a touchdown in the Super Bowl (check out the 0:46 mark below).
23 Willis McGahee (2007-present)
McGahee’s career in Baltimore has declined after a 1,200-yard season in 2007, but the veteran runner easily tops the list of players to wear the number, which includes Moe Williams, Jamaine Winborne, Earnest Hunter, and Dameon Hunter.
Though no longer a premier back, McGahee can take consolation in a certain moment in Oakland last season.
24 Domonique Foxworth (2009-present)
Despite playing only one season with the Ravens so far (and missing his second with a torn ACL), Foxworth’s performance in 2009 trumps the likes of Corey Fuller, Donny Brady, Alvin Porter, and 2006 third-round bust David Pittman.
25 Chris Carr (2009-present)
Despite a number of players wearing the number, Chris Carr wins out over inadequate cornerbacks such as DeRon Jenkins, Evan Oglesby, and Clarence Love.
26 Rod Woodson (1998-2001)
The veteran transitioned from cornerback to safety and earned three trips to the Pro Bowl during his four-year stay in Baltimore. Dawan Landry deserves a mention and Priest Holmes wore the number his rookie season, but Woodson is the unanimous choice here.
27 Ray Rice (2008-present)
Safety Stevon Moore was one of the few competent members of the Baltimore defense in the early years, but Rice’s breakout 2009 campaign makes him a slam-dunk choice for No. 27. Entering his third season, Rice hopes he can make the number as synonymous with Ravens football as No. 52 and 75.
28 Gary Baxter (2001-04)
McAlister wore the number his rookie season and Tom Zbikowski is making a name for himself, but Baxter was a solid member of the Baltimore secondary before ditching the Ravens for Cleveland, where his career was essentially ruined by patella tendon tears in both knees in 2006.
29 Chester Taylor (2002-05)
Taylor was a dependable backup in 2004 and 2005 when Jamal Lewis’ body began breaking down. His performance eventually earned him a nice payday in Minnesota before the Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson. Two players deserving posthumous recognition are safety Eric Turner and fullback Chuck Evans. Terry Allen also wore the number in the running back-starved season of 2001.
30 Obafemi Ayanbadejo (1999-2001)
With Eugene Daniel and Jamel White his only real competition, the man with probably the coolest name in the history of the franchise earns the honor despite spending the latter half of the Super Bowl season on Injured Reserve.
31 Jamal Lewis (2000-2006)
With a bruising style unlike any other, Lewis was an unstoppable force in 2003, rushing for 2,066 yards and a then-record 295 against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2. In his prime, Lewis was the type of runner defensive players were afraid to tackle. He is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.
32 Sam Gash (2000-02)
The veteran fullback led the way for Lewis in his rookie season and is the most deserving of a group of backs that includes Musa Smith and Errict Rhett. Gash was the epitome of an “old-school” fullback.
33 Le’Ron McClain (2007-present)
Some will argue Priest Holmes as a deserving choice for this number—the first back to have a 1,000-yard season in team history in 1998—but McClain’s two Pro Bowl selections and improbable 2008 season in which he rushed for 902 yards earn him the honor.
McClain’s running style reminds you a little bit of Bam Morris, another back to wear the number in 1996 and 1997. Unlike the troubled Morris, however, McClain has managed to keep his nose clean, literally and figuratively.
34 Ovie Mughelli (2003-06)
Though he was a late bloomer in Baltimore, Mughelli grabs the brass ring with his only real competition being Jay Graham and current return man Jalen Parmele. The latter still has an opportunity to stake a claim in the future, but Graham’s injury-riddled career fell off a cliff after rushing for an amazing 154 yards in his first career start in 1997.
35 Corey Ivy (2006-08, 2009)
Despite his small stature at 5-foot-9, Ivy was a steady nickelback with the ability to blitz effectively. His standout moment with the Ravens came during a dominant 27-0 win over the Steelers in 2006 in which the defensive back grabbed an interception, sacked Ben Roethlisberger, and forced a fumble. Ivy edges Robert Bailey, the nickel during the 2000 season, and fullback Carwell Gardner (1996).
36 Jim Leonhard (2008)
B.J. Sams was a good return specialist for four seasons with the Ravens, but Leonhard personified the Ravens’ underdog season in 2008 in which they advanced to the AFC Championship game with a rookie head coach and quarterback.
The undersized safety’s play was a major asset in place of the injured Dawan Landry and earned him a nice contract with Rex Ryan and the New York Jets the following season.
37 Bennie Thompson (1996-1999)
Deion Sanders earned the most attention with his two-year stint in Baltimore, but Thompson was a special teams standout during the infancy of the franchise. Thompson played the game with the crazed demeanor needed to launch oneself into the wedge of the opposition’s return team. Thompson earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 1998 for his special teams prowess.
38 James Trapp (1999-2002)
Despite being an ordained minister, Trapp is remembered most for being ejected from a game in 2002 after stomping on the head of Steelers receiver Plaxico Burress, a move many in Baltimore didn’t mind a bit. Trapp was a quality backup in the Ravens secondary for four seasons and edged out the likes of Antonio Langham, Mike Anderson, and Raymond Walls.
39 Alan Ricard (2000-05)
After much painful debate, I decided against Daren Stone, the culprit of one of the dumbest penalties in franchise history, as the all-time No. 39.
Ricard was the lead blocker and a Pro Bowl alternate in Jamal Lewis’ record-breaking 2003 season and was a great fullback for several seasons.
40 Cory Ross (2006-07)
Though he wore the number for just one season (switching to No. 34 in 2007), Ross filled in for injured return specialist B.J. Sams during the latter portion of the 2006 season, which was enough to earn the distinction for a very insignificant number in team history.
The deceased Kenyon Cotton and current bubble defensive back K.J. Gerard are the only other competitors in an underwhelming group of No. 40s.
Next up: For numbers 41 though 60, we’ll find who grabbed the honors for No. 46 and 48 (Impressive if you have names off the top of your head), and I’ll end the suspense surrounding the pick for No. 52. Here’s a hint: it rhymes with Lay Rewis.
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